Martin Berkofsky

Hovhaness: Khaldis; Mt. Katahdin; Fantasy

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In the sense that Alan Hovhaness' idiosyncratic music often strays from Western conventions and models, and tends instead toward a loosely Eastern outlook, the pieces on this 2000 release from Crystal Records are typical straddlers of the cultural and philosophical hemispheres. The unsynchronized counterpoint and gamelan-like cycles of the piano concerto Khaldis, Op. 91; the slow harmonic rhythms of the solo sonata Mount Katahdin, Op. 405; and the imitative ragas and exotic internal piano sounds of the Fantasy, Op. 16, have an affinity with Indian and Indonesian ceremonial music, yet also evoke the mystery of mythic places and subjective realms suggested in many of Hovhaness' esoteric works. Pianist Martin Berkofsky, conductor Lawrence Sobol, and a small ensemble of trumpets and percussion render Khaldis with considerable clarity and coordination in the 1972 recording, and Berkofsky's 1999 reading of Mount Katahdin is vivid and quite clean, presumably recorded digitally. Most interesting to hear, however, is Hovhaness' own performance of the Fantasy, recorded in 1970 and first released in mono on Poseidon; even though the sound quality here is rather poor, Hovhaness is sufficiently focused and compelling in his hypnotic playing to make such a deficiency easy to ignore.

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